As a 25-year-old ‘newbie’ in fundraising I was excited, albeit very nervous, to be riding in a golf cart with a very wealthy donor as we sped through miles of his orange groves in south Florida. I was dressed more for a New York board meeting; he wore cowboy boots, muddy jeans, a rumpled cotton shirt, and an authentic Stetson.
Eventually we would settle down for breakfast in his dining room (yes, the fresh-squeezed orange juice flowed freely). Even before I got around to making my assigned ask for a gift of $5,000 he handed me an envelope. “Go ahead,” he said, “open it.” Well, despite my fancy suit I gave myself away in an instant. My eyes grew big as I looked at the check, then the donor, then the check (again). His gift was for $50,000 – not the meager amount I anticipated.
As he drove me in the cart back to my car, he waved to his orange groves and asked, “Do you know what makes me happy? It’s not this (as we sped by countless fruit-laden trees). It’s when I give it away. You see, that’s the only way to be happy, to be free.”
I thought of this story when I read the verse and the prayer in today’s Lenten devotional. God has blessed each of us with so much, in so many ways. In fact, we are such a blessed people we can become prisoners of those blessings always trying to conserve, protect, and increase what God has given.
The lesson I learned that day in the orange groves is that our lives and hearts can only find freedom in things – in our blessings and gifts – when we give them away to help others.
My donor friend knew this. When I got back home there was a carton of fresh Florida oranges waiting for me on my doorstep.